Thursday, October 20, 2011

Selling Your Handmade Jewelry at Shows Part 1: Home Shows

I started out selling my jewelry at home shows.  It was a big leap for me (you know, from just my mom and friends buying it), but it was the only way I knew to sell it at the time (the whole online thing was just beginning to boom, and I had dial up!)  When I first decided to do a home show, I didn’t even have enough inventory to sell (I made gemstone jewelry back then).  So I made samples of things I could recreate, and made a catalog, so you could pick your gemstone, color, clasp and lengths…………….and I made jewelry to order.  I had some items they could purchase that day, but most of my sales were pre-ordered, and then I used the money from that day to buy the materials and make the jewelry.  It was a lot of work, and I don’t recommend it.  The artist in me was crying “I don’t want to make the same thing again in a new color!!!!”  However, I needed money to grow my business, and I muddled through it.  What I did like about those shows, was making something custom for each person.  I enjoyed knowing they would be getting a piece that they picked and customized, and that they would love.  I found my old catalog over the winter, when I finally set up my studio, and it was a riot!  I will share some of it with you.....................don't laugh!!!

Well, that all seems like forever ago (10 years).  I still do home shows, but my jewelry and my philosophy have changed.  My work is really one of a kind now, although, I can do similar styles, but none will be identical.  And let me tell you, that feels better!  The inventory at the show is entirely available for purchase on the spot.  What hasn't changed, is the fun of getting up close and personal with your buyers.  Home shows can be pure fun!

Here are some tips I'd like to share with you for creating a successful home show:

1.      Have enough inventory and if not have samples with “made to order” forms.  Make sure the inventory you have is a variety of shapes and sizes: for example, triple strand necklaces to simple pendants…….long ones, short ones, you get it, right?  Keep it your style, but have something for everyone too.  And never forget EARRINGS!  Ladies love their earrings! (and they make great gifts)
2.    Make sure your hostess sends out invitations that have all your information on them (web site, blog, shop), a sample of your work they can see and what forms of payment you accept so they can come prepared.  Have your hostess send out a lot, in hopes a fraction of the people can make it.  I get mine made at vista print when they have their free offers for postcards.
3.    Have a show special today only- like earrings $18 each or 2 / $15  or buy a necklace at full price and get earrings $5 off- you want to encourage people to buy today (and not just take a card for later), since you went through the work of being there. 
4.    Incentive for the hostess- make it worth her while.  This is going to vary for each business....I can't tell you what to give.  I gave a certain percentage off for every couple hundred $$ the show made, and if it was above $500, they got the special hostess bracelet or pendant free (usually something I was promoting at the time) or a half price item, ect…..figure out what works for you, write it up and stick to it.
5.    Do a door prize- two entries if you bring a friend- always a hit!  Encourages more people to come.
6.    Try to sell within your market- if you have modern jewelry you may not want to do a show for the elderly

7.    Don’t do a big ol’ speech about handmade jewelry, or the history of metal, ect…just be yourself and talk about the jewelry as people look at it.  For example: "oh, that bead was etched by me, or that’s a lampwork bead made by so and so, or that is made from recycled materials"…people like it when you are just yourself and natural.
8.    Bring your TOOLS and some beads so you can do adjustments and or make matching earrings:  I have a couple general bead containers that have a little bit of everything in them, and it has saved my butt many times.  I often end up changing the little bead at the end of the necklace, or making matching earrings for something.  (side note: my  opinion on matching earrings is that it’s a waste of time to make them for every necklace.  You may have many people who want them to match, but when you have even have half of the sales that don’t, you wind up with lots of odd earrings.  I like to offer to make them as needed, and just have more universal earrings for sale, like mixed metals and beads I use in a lot of designs….just how I do it due to overwhelming amounts of earrings that were never purchased to match)

pictures of what I bring to shows with me- plus wire and tools!!!!

9. Have signs and prices to make it easier for people, you can’t be everywhere at once.  I also highly reccomend making them on the computer, use the same font for all of them, print them on cardstock, and laminate them (so when you move onto outdoor shows, they don't get ruined).  I have a running file saved so I can add signs as needed and print new ones, and for laminate, I just use the self stick kind for pictures.

10.  Be organized at your “checkout” spot, give them a receipt, and bag the item nicely , include your card and make sure the area has room for them to set down their things and write a check
11. Credit card option- you WILL sell more if you take credit cards.  It’s just a fact.  Besides, not everyone carries cash.  I use Square and recommend it if you are just starting out in shows.  First of all, you don't need to sign a contract and apply for a merchant account.  There are no monthly fees or per transaction fees.  They only charge 2.75% of each transaction AND they send you the card reader for free!!!!  The only downside is you need a smart phone with internet.  I LOVE Square- I don't miss the paperwork, I get my approvals immediatley, and the money is in my account the next day, already minus the fees.  I think Intiut also has a similar plan, but they do charge a monthly fee if you go over $1,000 per month...... and I haven't used them personally, so I can't give them a personal reccomend.
     If you don't have a smart phone, I would reccomend a company that you can open and close seasonally, so you don't pay for months you are not using it.  Plus, you need to sign a contract that will have penalties if you cancel early, so be careful.  Many of my friends like Propay, though I have never used them myself, they get high reviews from friends.  They have many different plans so you can find one that suits your needs, and its all laid out for you on their website, no hidden fees.
12.  Displays:  last but not least.....I could probably do a whole post on them, but I will try to sum it up.
a.  Make sure it represents your style
b. Use floor length table cloths in a neutral color  / pattern (so it doesn't distract) and I prefer a material that doesn't wrinkle, like a thick polyester- because I don't fold well or iron!
c. Use objects, crates and shelves to create multi-level display area- this accomplishes two things, it gives you more surface area to work with, and it creates good flow (just like in design- you want to eye to carry through seemlessly without disruption)  I like to use crates, because they can also double as storage to transport items to and from your show
d. Try to display some or most of your jewelry so they can see it, and how it lays (too many necklaces hanging side by side will be hard for them to visualize).  You can use picture frames, pads with u-pins, or bust displays.  I like Nile Corp. for bust displays.  They have great prices and reasonable shipping.  I also started using these (they are on sale- kinda cheap, but I stained them and now they look amazing)

so that I can just stack them back up at the end of the show.  (I will have more on set up, tear down and your display in the Juried and Outdoor Shows: Part 2 of this series)  I use U-pins to hold their shape (you can get them here on etsy) and I like how those boxes frame my work.  They also double for taking my jewelry to shops (which I haven't done yet, I am such a wuss!)
   You can use dishes filled with lentils or rice, picture frames with mesh, driftwood, pretty boxes stacked up......possibilities are endless.  Just remember, your jewelry should be the star, not the display.  The display should compliment, but not overpower your jewelry.  Here are some ideas..........

I love how Sandra Miller of Beaded by Sandra used lentils and beans in her display, to bring some color and contrast................

AND she use baskets and serving trays to create that multi-tiered apprearance on her table.
She also used household items for displays- a great idea if you don't have the money to invest, or if you just like to be creative and different with your display.  Below is a picture frame she used to display bracelets....................
 and a decorative candle cover to hang earrings from!
Below is a display Shannon C. of For my Sweet Daughter did for a shop she sells in.............I really like the little bust displays she used to showcase each necklace, and her creative frame for earrings as well!  Very nice set up in a small space, just like you may be challenged with in a home.

Below are a few displays for purchse on etsy.............just love the unique finds on there!
 Found on etsy here
found on etsy here

And these driftwood displays were the best I've seen around, and Miss Fickle Media used to carry them, but it looks like she's all out right these...................

What else can I say???  Have fun.  Meet your customers and talk with them, relax.  Not everyone will think you are awesome, and thats just their loss, so don't let a couple disinterested folks get you down.  Everyone's style is different.  I know for me, my style is different, and not everyone is bold enough to wear it.  I can't let that make me shy about putting it out there.  So talk to your friends, and book a home show.  I promise, it will be fun.  Good luck! 


CinLynn Boutique said...

Some really great suggestions!! This is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks so much for the post!

MaCarroll Beads said...

WOW! What a great post! I did laugh when I saw your "catalog" because I did the same thing when I first started selling my jewelry..... before my ceramic bead discovery. I did it for people to take work to try to sell that way. I also thought that I had soooooo many beads that maybe I would have a home show and teach people how to make jewelry. That was a huge hit...... LOTS of work to prepare and I wasn't motivated enough to do it again. One thing that happened to me that stands out was the lighting. There wasn't enough. One of my best friends was the host so it was okay for me to go through and grab lamps from all of her rooms at the last minute. I would provide simple lighting if I were to do it again. Thanks for all of those tips!

SummersStudio said...

Well, I'm going to have to set aside some time to give this another read and click away on those links. This is jam packed with great ideas. BTW, I use propay for shows and love it. Very inexpensive. Thanks so much for generously sharing your experience. I'm looking forward to part 2!

Alice said...

Wonderful post! I struggle with making my jewelry display unique and interesting without breaking the bank. Also I like to change it so it doesn't get boring since I set up at the same venue every month. Finding a place to store all the different props is beginning to be a problem.

The lighting where I set up is very poor so I've got to find a remedy for this.

I bring a mirror as the ladies like to see how a certain necklace lays on the neckline, or if the color works for them, etc.

I use Intuit for my credit cards and it works wonderfully. But don't forget to bring along some cash as many people leave their credit card at home as a way to curb their spending.

My biggest problems....having to rely on another person (hubby usually) to carry my heavy tables up a flight of stairs, and watch my booth for the times I need to visit the ladies room.

KayzKreationz said...

What a great post. I've been thinking of trying to approach a few people about the possibility of doing a home show, but wasn't sure how to go about doing one. Thanks. Will be watching for your next post, too. I have the square and am waiting for someone to want to buy from me and pay with credit card so I can use it. :)

Marsha of Marsha Neal Studio said...

What an great post Staci! I love looking back (then cringing) at some displays of the past that I threw together. It makes such a difference to get things set up ahead of time and fool with the "look" well in advance. You've got some great ideas here and the timing is perfect as I know a lot of us are gearing up for some home shows and craft shows…


Jane Perala said...

Thanks for the great post and fabulous amount of information! I am definately looking into either Square or Propay - my present credit card process company is not to my liking.

Erika said...

These are great suggestions, Staci! I don't sell my stuff - yet, but I have friends who do home shows. I'll have to share this post with them.

Your point about not having too many matching earrings for every piece and making them to match on the spot is definitely true!

I also liked the suggestions for credit card companies. My hubby has a painting business and the company he uses is really expensive! I'll share this info with my friend Kathy too. She does home and craft shows and doesn't take credit cards. Something she just started at the last party she had at my house is layaway (my idea :D) This might not work for everyone, but she did sell more because of it, and with layaway, she keeps the jewelry until it's paid off.

I'm going to save all these suggestions if (when?) I decide to start selling. (I really should do something to support my bead habit ;D)

Thanks for the post!

Patty said...

Tons of great advice in here Staci! Thanks for sharing it all. Been a while since I did a home show, and I'm considering it for this holiday season.

stacilouise said...

Alice- I too used to have to rely on my husband, since I have a bad back, but I found lighter, smaller tables at K-mart for under $40 each- they are adjustable height, fold, and not as wide, so they are not as heavy and awkward.

Abeille à miel said...

What a fantastic post, full of ideas and things I didn't know about! I am getting ready for my first show (group holiday show) and am going to refer to this post often.

Izzy said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is wonderful information!

Sandra said...

Great post Staci! Awesome, ideas and info!

Its All About Creating said...

Wonderful post! I loved it. So full of inspiration and information. Thank you, thank you.

For My Sweet Daughter said...

Great post Staci, thanks for using photos of my displays for inspiration. My husband is a carpenter so he made (or modified) most of my display pieces.

silverpearlmetalworks said...

Just found this great post and your blog. Lots of great information here! Home shows are one of my most successful selling venues so I enjoyed reading your tips very much. And, thanks for the little feature :)

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